The «yellow» side of aluminium

The aim of this post is to show the readers which effects the use of aluminium have. Especially we show you the consumption of Zurich and how much resources we would save if we reduce/renounce the consume. The post starts with a short fantasy story. With that story we try to give you another view about the theme.

Main question: What are the consequences to the environment if no more aluminium cans were produced?

Story (a little bit of fantasy used)

In 50 years, in the year 2068, people will be forced to reduce their waste of aluminium. But they won’t do that voluntarily. They are going to reduce the waste because of a huge problem. Once a day, a big yellow cloud, with a frightening smile, appears in the sky. It will turn out, that the rays (=Strahlen) of the cloud are having a very bad effect on aluminium. You can only use aluminium cans for 24 hours and after this time, they start to dissolve by themselves (=sich selbst auflösen) because of the rays. The drinks in the cans would leak.

Beverage packaging of aluminium (aluminium cans) – calculation

2016 waste recycling
(8’372’000 persons)
10’445 tonnes 9’365 tonnes

(415’682 persons)

518.61 tonnes
=518’609’470 grams
464.99 tonnes

=464’985’897 grams

41’061’716 cans 36’815’986 cans
Ø per person 99 cans 89 cans

=> 90% recycling quote

weight of different cans

For this results we had the assumption that there were sold equal numbers of every can. So this calculation is only an assumption (=Annahme).
0.25 litre (energy drink) 10.7g
0.33 litre (beer/soda)     11.4g
0.5 litre  (beer/soda)      15.8g
=> Ø weight of a can: 12.63g

Source: Abfallstatistiken 2016 (

Aluminium production

The world’s main source of aluminium is bauxite. For the degradation (=Abbau) of bauxite people have to clear huge areas of the rainforest, mostly in Australia, Indonesia, Brazil and Guinea. Winning aluminium out of bauxite is a very elaborate process, where red mud (=Rotschlamm) accrues. Per tonne aluminium it can produce up to four tonnes of this toxic red mud. The mud often breaks through the landfill pool (=Deponiebecken) and causes flooding. Sometimes whole villages are flooded by this and innumerable animals are in danger because of the red mud.
In the further progression a very high energy waste is used. To produce one tonne of aluminium you have to use 15 megawatt hours. This is as much as an average two-person-household needs in five years! Because of the low energy costs this step is mostly made in Brazil.

Source: Aluminium: Leichtes Metall – schwere Schäden (

Picture 1: red mud waste dump in Germany (Stade)
source: Bützflethermoor Rotschlammdeponie Luftaufnahmen (

Effects of the aluminium consumption

That means that the production of the aluminium consumed in Zurich in one year (2016) had the following effects:
518.61 tonnes of aluminium
=> 2’704.44 tonnes of toxic red mud
=> 7’779.15 megawatt hours

Change something!

If no more aluminium cans were used the production of aluminium would not stop. Aluminium is used in too many other things: aluminium foil, lots of other packaging (chocolate and so on), cars, bicycles, deodorants… the list is endless long. But the reduction of the aluminium cans is the first step!

But how can YOU change something in the waste of aluminium cans? The following steps should help you.

  1. Use a glass bottle! If you once buy a glass bottle, you can literally keep her forever. You can always fill her up with water or sirup and wash it at the end of the day. The next day you can just take her again. Repeat this during your whole life
  2. Tell everyone!
    Don’t think that you can’t reach something as a only person. Tell everyone what we just told you about the production of aluminium and all the bad effects. Be a great example.
  3. Renounce (=verzichten)
    The most effective but also the hardest part is to renounce. It is not possible to achieve something if we are not willing to sacrifice something. In this case you have to renounce on your energy drink, beer or soft drink.

Picture 2: Don’t use soda cans!
Source: no-soda-cans (

Team Zurich: Tim & Iris

On-topic posts on
The life cycle of an aluminum can
What’s behind the coffee capsule recycling

☷ See the project teams here »
☵ Some words about the contributions »

2 thoughts on “The «yellow» side of aluminium

  1. Dear Tim and Iris
    Thank you for publishing such an interesting and educational contribution! I used to drink an energy drink every day, completely unaware of the concequences of my action. It is flabbergasting to me, how bad the degratation of aluminum is for the enviroment, considering that it is advertised as a “better” packaging solution than plastic eventough it is just as contraproductive as plastic in our fight against the climate crisis. I also like the fact, that you included alternative options like the usage of a glass bottle and ideas, how to work against the problem.
    It would be interesting to know, if this assignement changed your own habits and if you were able to convince People around you to stop using caluminium cans!
    Other than that I appreciate the work you put in this contribution and will spread the knowledge I have gained.

  2. You used an easy language so that it wasn’t difficult to understand the contribution. The article is very interesting and encourages you to think about the bad side of aluminium. So it motivates you to help protecting the environment. It is fascinating how much wasted energy is used to produce aluminium. The steps how you could use less aluminium to protect the environment are very good.
    In my opinion you could improve your website contribution by doing a survey and publishing it to the website. With a survey you can see how much the people know about the topic. It is always interesting to see the opinions of different people.

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